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Vermont bill would extend on-farm slaughter exemption

A bill to extend on-farm slaughter privileges for small farmers in Vermont is set for discussion and a possible vote in the state Senate’s Agriculture Committee next week.

Proponents include small farmers and fans of local food. They say allowing small animal farm operations to slaughter on site is better for the animals, the farmers and the consumers. Rural Vermont, a non-profit organization that primarily represents family farmers is pushing hard for Senate approval.

farm-pig-slaughterAlready approved by the Vermont House of Representatives, the bill seeks to allow a three-year “agricultural experiment” to continue until July 2019. The proposed legislation, H. 861, is on the Senate committee’s agenda for April 12 and 14, with “committee discussion and possible vote” on April 14, according to the Vermont Senate calendar.

Opponents say there is a much greater chance for food safety problems when animals are not slaughtered in facilities that are subject to inspections and other regulations.

Windham Rep. Carolyn Partridge, the Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products, told Peter Hirschfeld of Vermont Public Radio that lawmakers want to nurture the small-farm movement, but not at the cost of food safety. She said slaughtering at inspected facilities helps ensure the sanitized environment needed to avoid contamination.

The House committee approved the legislation and sent it to the full chamber, which also approved on-farm slaughter for three more years. However, Partridge told Vermont NPR that committee members were uncomfortable expanding the numbers of livestock that could be slaughtered at uninspected facilities.

Rural Vermont and other proponents say the annual limit of three cattle, 10 pigs, or 25 lambs or goats is too restrictive and is relegating small farms to hobby status. The proponents also dismiss the food safety concerns as unfounded.

“According to the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, there have been no reported problems with meat sold under the on-farm slaughter law since its enactment in 2013,” Rural Vermont’s leaders said in a March 30 news release.

Partridge told Vermont Public Radio that the safety of consumers is just one of her concerns. She also want’s to protect the Green Mountain State’s reputation.

“If there was bad instance of tainting or whatever, E. coli, whatever might happen, that Vermont’s brand would be tarnished in some way,” Partridge told the radio reporter.

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